Two weeks ago I declared 2012 to be the year I consume less and become less materialistic. The main reasons being money and some sort of amoral imperative I can’t articulate without sounding like a pompous asshole. I have since realized that I seem to be a bit late to the party. People world-wide have been implementing all sorts of schemes to overcome our basic urge to have. Yielding the conclusion: nowadays, we tend to crave access and not ownership. And here Collaborative Consumption comes into play. It’s something we all do on a regular basis but at a small scale, lending to other people and borrowing when needed, instead of buying.
Who among us has never needed something urgently and temporarily and thus decided to do a short survey to find which of his friends has said item? The most popular examples of this are hardware appliances, since they’re high-idling items. None of us need a drill or a certain screwdriver 24/7, but we all have pictures to put up and bolts to unscrew at one point or another. Why buy an expensive utilitie when you can just ask your fellow men for one?
I’m not talking about swapping, although that’s obviously a good option in order to reduce consumption overall, but then you also lose the ownership of your accumulated junk (I assume you haven’t thrown away those Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles videotapes for a reason). And there might be some trust issues involved – will that anonymous person online really send me my desired item? Am I going to get duped?
There are already more than a few sites in which you can engage in this wonderful form of consumption (I shouldn’t say new because this is probably the oldest practice in human kind, it’s not an invention of the 21st century), but unfortunately the majority are US or Europe based. Here are just a few to sample that have a large and ever-growing users’ community:
- BookMooch – You have books? You want different ones? This is the place to swap.
- Zwaggle – Trading baby clothes (hopefully relatively new).
- NeighBorrow– Lets you search your geographical vicinity for things to borrow.
If you want something a bit more personal, the easiest route is obviously Facebook. It’s not custom-made, but it can definitely serve as a platform, since our constant need to update our peers and share our experience is what made us the generation that feels most comfortable to share our goods. Just today I opened a group, just for my friends and I, where I hope we’ll each be able to contribute to eachother. Be it by lending a book or by letting someone use my washing machine.
As an Economics grad student, I just have to point out that this neo-evolution in the way we consume has a very interesting implication on the signaling theory (not to mention currency). People are being evaluated less and less by their bank accounts and credit, and more by the way they conduct transactions with other human beings. We are switching from being appraised by companies to being peer reviewed. It’s almost enough to renew my faith in civilization.